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The Truth About Dishonesty

I stumbled on an RSA animate about dishonesty. It has quite a bit of relevance to this board's discussions about illegal downloading, illegal immigration, defaulting on loans, the banking crisis, gold, and several other issues.

"Are you more honest than a banker? Under what circumstances would you lie, or cheat, and what effect does your deception have on society at large? Dan Ariely, one of the world's leading voices on human motivation and behaviour is the latest big thinker to get the RSA Animate treatment."


The solution to dishonesty, according to the video is "to open a new page"...that is, to be able to confess one's dishonesty, thus paving the way to learning from the mistake, thus growing wiser and more honest.

However, early in the video, the speaker made a great observation that the tendency to steal increased as the distance from actual money is increased. For example, we see taking money from our boss's petty cash box as stealing, but downloading music illegally isn't really stealing. The reason being that we can more easily rationalize stealing as something else the further it is from actual money.

This actually supports having currency backed by something like the gold standard. The more people view money as something very valuable (as opposed to just paper), the less likely they'll be dishonest and steal.